According to recent numbers appearing on the state’s TDOT “SmartWay” electronic message boards, the number of traffic fatalities in Tennessee is on the rise. The most recent numbers shown on the board indicate that Tennessee roads have seen 765 deaths so far this year. That compares to the 728 which had been seen at this point last year.
Law enforcement agencies across the state, including the Tennessee Highway Patrol, have said they will begin cracking down on drunk drivers as a way to hopefully reduce the number of deaths in the state. Arrests statistics indicate that crackdown is real given that between January 1 and the end of September, THP made 4,349 DUI arrests statewide. By way of comparison, last year that same timeframe saw only 3,487 DUI arrests.
The THP says that the plan is to continue to increase enforcement of impaired driving to bring down the state’s increasing fatality rate. It should be pointed out that this strategy is hardly a guarantee for success. After all, the number of DUI arrests across the state are up by nearly 25% though fatality rates have also risen.
Some have raised questions about the benefits of the state’s somewhat strict punishments associated with DUI convictions, especially those for first-time offenders. In Tennessee, first-time DUI offenders face a mandatory two-day jail term, over $2,500 in fines and fees, one-year suspension of the driver’s license, and, more troubling to critics, the misdemeanor can never be expunged from their record.
The lifetime provision of the state’s DUI law is especially tough for those who have never faced any trouble before or after. Though the state’s legislators recently passed a law allowing for the expungement of certain felonies, a DUI is not included--and it is a misdemeanor.
The long-term damage that such a lifetime record can cause is serious. Many people in Tennessee find themselves having trouble finding a job with a DUI conviction on their record as employers often conduct background checks before hiring. In some cases colleges can deny admission to those with a DUI and other professional organizations can deny certification thanks to the presence of a DUI, even one that took place many, many years ago.
Though no one recommends that those convicted of impaired driving get off lightly, punishing someone for the rest of their lives serves little purpose other than to mark them for life.
Read: “TN roadway fatality numbers continue to climb,” by Jennifer Meckles, published at WBIR.com.
(Lee Davis is a Chattanooga attorney who can be reached at email@example.com or at 266-0605.)